Chickpeas -- also known as garbanzo beans -- are a superfood that contributes to a healthy diet, as well as being a crucial ingredient to many types of cuisine such as Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean. The protein-packed legume has a nutty flavor and it's the backbone of foods such as hummus and falafel, and pairs nicely with soups, stews, and curries. However, because of the time involved in preparing dried chickpeas, most people opt for the canned varieties. Canned chickpeas provide the same nutritional value but are known to contain certain preservatives as well as upwards of 100 times the sodium content of cooked chickpeas.
Making chickpeas from scratch is the more natural and healthy way to go, and it is surprisingly easy. If you take the time to cook them and then store them in your freezer, you will have a much healthier alternative that will taste better, plus you can control the texture and save considerable cash over time just by preparing them yourself.
When buying chickpeas, it's important to remember that the older the beans, the less tender they'll turn out when you cook them. If you're purchasing from a bulk bin, check to see if the bin has a high turnover rate so that you're certain you have a fresh product.
You also want to inspect your beans before you start cooking by laying them out on a baking sheet. Remove any stones, damaged beans and other grit, then place them in a colander and rinse.
There are two reasons why you should soak your chickpeas before boiling:
You can soak them quickly, overnight or for a couple of days until they begin to sprout.
The two-day method is the same as the overnight method, although it's crucial to change the water at least twice each day to avoid bacteria growth. Soaking them for a couple of days is beneficial because beans' nutritional value increases once they sprout.
When you are ready to cook the beans, place them in a large pot and cover them with several inches of water. Bring them to a boil, and then reduce the heat and let them simmer. You want to let the beans cook for about 60 to 90 minutes until they reach your desired tenderness, which will depend on the recipe you are adding your beans to. Certain dishes, such as hummus, require very tender beans, while others, such as soups and stews, will call for beans with a bit more crunch. Adjust the cooking time to achieve the tenderness you need. When they are fully cooked, drain them in a colander and allow them to cool.
Another option is to cook chickpeas in a slow cooker. If you use this method, you don't have to soak them, Instead, add the water and the beans into the slow cooker and turn on the heat. For every pound of dried beans you put in the slow cooker, you want to add seven cups of water and cook them on high for three to four hours, or on low for seven to eight hours.
When freezing chickpeas, it's important to remember that they freeze best when they are on the firmer side rather than completely soft. Most recipes call for soaked chickpeas that are tender, so it's good to cook a large, more firm batch and then freeze for future use. Frozen chickpeas are good for up to one year.
To freeze the beans, make sure to remove as much moisture as possible by patting them dry with paper towels and then place them in a Ziploc bag and spread them out so there's only one layer of chickpeas -- if you pile them up on top of each other, they will freeze together. Lay down the Ziploc bag on a flat surface in your freezer. If you have to use several Ziploc bags, you can lay the bags on top of each in the freezer.
You can also lay the chickpeas out in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them for thirty minutes, and then once they are firm, you can place them into a Ziploc or airtight container and seal it, then put it immediately back into the freezer. If you use this method, you don't have to put them in a single layer because they won't stick together in this half-frozen state.
If you think you'll be cooking with chickpeas in the next few days, you can also store cooked beans in the refrigerator by placing them in a covered airtight container or Ziploc bag without any more liquid, and they will keep for up to three to four days.
Chickpeas are versatile, being a great addition to salads, stews and curries, as well as being a wonderful substitute for scrambled eggs. There are many delicious vegan recipes involving chickpeas that provide unique flavor as well as being very healthy. They can also be toasted for a crunchy snack or even used in a few select dessert options. Try experimenting with a few recipes to see which ones hit your taste buds.